It is often fairly said that battles over wokery are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has provided an example of political correctness gone mad and doing bad.
In the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the media spent much time debating whether it was racist to call it the ‘Wuhan’ or ‘Chinese’ virus. Similar offence-seeking has prompted stories that British prime minister Boris Johnson called it ‘kung flu’.
Simpler folk might question whether this mattered as thousands died. But the high-minds at the WHO are still engaged enough with the question that they’ve decreed a new set of “simple, easy to say and remember labels” for important variants.
According to the org, “people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory”. Its panel of experts have thus alighted on Greek letters to describe variants of concern.
Perhaps the comms specialists were away that afternoon, but the simplest, easiest and most memorable variants are of course those in use. Assigning multiple names to the same thing guarantees confusion, as any fool knows.
Place-based names are obviously not discriminatory. Evidence is thin for any stigmatising effect, but the main damage to national brands has surely been the lacklustre government responses in countries where important variants emerged.
Ignore the WHO. Long live the Kentish disease.